26 September 2007

Don't Mess with Texas!

Big trucks, big hats, big buildings, and lots of food. I'm still not sure how I feel about Texas. I'll tell you one thing though I did like the first visitors station that I stopped at.

They had a great memorial to WWII soldiers. I drove and drove through Texas...first Dallas/Fort Worth and I stopped for the night in Waco, TX. I didn't do much in terms of sight seeing I think at that point I was just too tired. I drove the next day through Austin where I saw a restaurant called Baby Acapulco also known as Baby A's. I really need to eat there. I have a feeling that Texas may just be able to handle my love of Mexican food, BBQ, and beer. It's also a great place if you love country music and rodeos.

So I drove through Austin and made my way to San Antonio. I got lost once but other wise found my apartment complex without too many problems. I had a nightmare in the first apartment they gave me. I don't think I can describe it but I found out that they hadn't cleaned it yet. So they set me up in another apartment that seems to be more to my liking and is clean. It's no where near as nice as my 1000 sq ft two bedroom with a balcony in Saint Cloud but it's cute and cosy for here in Texas. I have some pictures of it empty...I'll take some more once I get my furniture all set up.

A long time no blogging

I've not been blogging in some time. I want to use the excuse that I've been busy but you know what even I can find 20 minutes to spend talking to all of you, who I know just wait for my latest entry. I promise to catch up over the next few days. It will mean some blogging about the past but I know that you will forgive me.


19 September 2007

A great big shout out to Nancy!

On my three day journey from Saint Cloud, MN to San Antonio, TX I had numerous adventures. It's really hard not to have some adventures when driving alone for 1300 miles over three days. Some of my favorite stops/adventures/experiences are worthy of sharing them with all of you.

Iowa. I'll have to admit it. I really like Iowa. I know that it is braking some law because I'm from Minnesota but I really like Iowa. I made my first stop in Manly, Iowa. With a name like that I just had to stop. It wasn't very manly but it was fun to see the sign. I continued driving until I had to stop again....Woolstock, Iowa. I just needed to see it. I was laughing to myself thinking "so this is where knitters go to party."

If you take 35 down through Iowa you also drive right into Madison County, as in The Bridges of. I had stopped there last year when I took a road trip to Kansas City but I had to stop again. There is something about covered bridges that make me stand in awe. I stopped and brought some flowers to the Imes Covered Bridge which is right off of 35. It was my own way of remembering the 35W Bridge Collapse in Minneapolis. I really don't think I'll ever look at bridges the same again.

I drove right through Missouri and Kansas without much thought. Actually I remember thinking in Kansas that it doesn't look this big on a map and will I ever get out of here. I made my overnight stop in Guthrie, Oklahoma. I wanted to sight see the next day in Oklahoma City so I wanted to be close by.

I stopped at the Oklahoma City National Memorial. It is a tribute to all the lives lost in the Murray Building bombing on April 19, 1995. 168 chairs representing a perpetual memory of each of the deceased. It is a powerful memorial.

After I went to the Memorial I had to made a stop at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. It houses the most comprehensive collection of Dale Chihuly glass in the world. So I took a few hours and wandered the museum. I'm in love with a piece called Autumn Gold Persian Wall.

This piece made me cry it was so beautiful to look at. There was something so comforting about the colors and the movement of it. I think it was what I needed after having just been at the memorial. I also loved Neodymium Spears and Jerusalem Cylinders. I loved Chihuly's work before I went to see this exhibit but I'm even more in love with it now. After that I left Oklahoma City and continued on to Texas.
I made one more stop in Oklahoma. I stopped to see Nancy at "Original Fried Pies" at Exit 51 on I-35. There were two experiences that happened during this stop. The first is that I had my very first fried pie. Nancy makes the fillings fresh and the pie crust is amazing. You can almost feel your arteries being clogged but it is a small price to pay to for the heavenly taste of one of her fried pies. I had an peach and a sugar free apple but they have pecan, cherry, pineapple, blackberry, apricot, and a few cream like lemon and chocolate.
After I had my fried pies or at least half of each because even I can't eat two whole fried pies. I stopped in to use the ladies room. OHG! I have never in my life wished I had my camera in a bathroom before. This used to be a two person bathroom with divided stalls but they have taken out the stall doors and to add to that. Someone cut a large square hole in between the stalls. They cut it in the right spot so that you can see the face of the person who is sitting next to you when you talk to them. If you use this bathroom make sure you really like the person who is using it with your or do as I did and lock the door behind you.
I still have to say that if you are ever in Oklahoma near Exit 51 you have to to stop in! But remember to be careful in the bathroom!
I drove into Texas not long after that but I think that Texas needs its own post.

02 September 2007

The First of the Lasts....

Last Sunday I began my journey into what I am calling the first of the lasts. I've been serving Peace United Church of Christ as their summer pastor for the last three months and last Sunday was my last Sunday with them. It was really bitter sweet for me. On one hand I am beyond exhausted. I work full time (about 50 hours a week) as a chaplain for the VAMC - Saint Cloud and then I spent the summer adding an extra 20 hours a week being part time pastor. I think that is the bitter part. I've had no down time all summer. The sweet is that I loved pastoring this church. It was an amazing experience for me.

So during announcements the church gave me a gift and told me how much they have enjoyed having me there. I preached my final sermon and at Peace we always end by saying "Shalom" and right after I said it the church gave me a standing ovation. I stood in the pulpit and cried but it was my first...well the first of all the lasts that I will be doing over the next 10 days.

I preached my final sermon at the VA here today and did my final Sunday service on the dementia unit. I've been walking around and lots of people have been saying goodbye and giving me hugs. I've heard dozens of "You can't go." and "I'm not letting you leave." It's harder than I thought it would be. I've only been here for a year and for me that is barely enough time to really get settled but somehow I did it. I got nice and comfy here in Saint Cloud, MN.

I have several friends here now who ask me daily to stay and why would I, why would anyone, want to move to Texas? They are going through the same process that I am and doing some grieving. My parents have become almost clingy in the last few weeks as I've been getting ready to go.

I really did think that it would be easier than this. That leaving wouldn't be so hard or sad but it is. I am excited to be going to San Antonio and looking forward to all the challenges that being there will bring, the new places and people, new ideas and ways of processing, a different landscape to paint this next part of my spiritual/physical/emotional journey on and I'll admit it I'm also looking forward to another 4 units of CPE.

As I go through this time of the lasts...I am also going through a time of firsts. It's true that a door doesn't close unless there is a window open.

25 August 2007

Where has my summer gone....

I have been so bad about posting on this. I guess that having two jobs for the summer wasn't the brightest idea but I have loved every moment. Tomorrow I preach my last sermon at Peace UCC here in Saint Cloud and then I'm down to one job only. I still need to finish my packing as in about 18 days I am moving from my very lovely home here in beautiful central Minnesota to San Antonio, Texas to begin the next phase of this ministry journey. I will have to update more as I pack and get ready to move. I have to say that I'm really tired of moving every year.

08 June 2007

Created in the Divine

Today was the first day of the Minnesota Conference UCC Annual Meeting. It is my first meeting as a member of the UCC and I have to admit that it has been an amazing introduction into the fold. I got to reconnect with people that I haven't seen since this fall and I've meet so many amazing new people. I really feel welcomed. I wasn't sure how I was going to feel because last week was the Minnesota Annual Conference of the UMC and I do miss all the people that I know and get to connect with there. I will admit they are VERY different meetings in tone and presentation...and size. We meet on the campus of The College of Saint Benedict's in Saint Joseph, MN and I took some pictures to share with all of you who out in blogging land...I hope that you will all join me this weekend as I continue my updates.

This is the campus.
Everyone is dancing in this photo...I don't think I have words that express how great the band from Peace UCC in Duluth is.
We got so into the dancing that a conga line sort of thing happened around the meeting floor. The conference minister was even dancing...too bad I didn't get a photo of that.
We served each other communion at our tables and it was really lovely. This is a photo of the communion that had been set up for the closing worship service. I had to take a photo of all of that bread.
Join me tomorrow for even more pictures from Annual Meeting and some photos from the Big Brothers Big Sisters opening event for the Golf Classic. I'll be at both parties tomorrow. And then back in the pulpit on Sunday morning. Feel free to join me on Sunday morning at Peace United Church of Christ in Saint Cloud, MN for worship. I'll be there all summer!

26 May 2007

Pastoral Idenity

Over this last year I've been participating in a year long CPE residency and it has been one of the best educational /ministry processes that I've been able to partake in to date. It has been such an enlightening process that I've decided to do another year of it. I'm at the end of my third unit and working on pastoral identity as one of my main goals. I don't always enjoy looking at issues of identity because they never seem objective or concrete to me. So I decided to dress the part of religious clergy for a while during this unit and look at how others respond to me and watch my own behaviors when I look like a clergy person. There was a photo taken so that I can see how I look and well it made me giggle. I look like a kid playing dress up. Here take a look:

Now please...don't I look like a twenty year old playing dress up? I had to go in the other night for a death that happened and this is how I was dressed. As I was at the nursing station writing the final chaplain note the doctor who came to pronounce looked at me and said, "Every time I see you I think 'This kid can't be the chaplain. She's just a teenager.' Then I remind myself that you are a young chaplain. I do have to say that the collar you are wearing gives you a bit more creditability." I wasn't sure how to take this comment or if it was positive affirmation or a slam. I now have something to think about.

22 May 2007

You May Be a Social Worker if...

1. Strangers come up to you and tell you their life story and before you realize it, you've completed a psychosocial assessment, refereed them to a support group and given them the name of a counselor to call.

2. You know the suicide crisis phone number, the food shelf and the community shelter phone numbers right off the top of your head.

3. You know where to find "free" anything (cloths, food, equipment, transportation) but you are not eligible for any of them yourself.

4. You are considered an "expert" with financial assistance for your low-income individuals but you can't keep your own checkbook balanced.

5. Staff you work with will pull you aside and consult you on their "hypothetical" problem and you can't charge them for your advice.

6. You have a file or a list posted in your office on "Stress Reducing Techniques."

7. You see a patient/client outside the work setting you immediately avoid talking to them for fear they will tel you how "really bad" they are doing and make you feel obligated to follow-up with them later.

8. After a long week of solving other people's problems, you recognize that you haven't dealt with your own at home.

9. You don't know what "sick days" are and you call your vacation time "long mental health breaks."

10. You have community resource phone numbers at your fingertips but can't remember your kids' dentist, doctor or teachers' phone numbers.

11. The clinical staff find the patient/family situation appalling and in urgent need of intervention and in your "social work" opinion, you don't really think it's all that bad (and question what the fuss is all about?!)

~This list written by: Rena Sespene-Hinz LICSW

I thought that this was a trip and found myself transposing "social worker" with "chaplain." Can we come up with a "You May Be a Chaplain if..." or "You May Be a Pastor if..."

Gimme Story

A friend of mine (Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew) is a writer...she has written books, one of which had a profound impact on my spiritual journey. She also writes a piece for the monthly church news letter and this past month what she wrote hit home in some strange way for me. I'm not sure where or how it resonates but I know that every time I read the words she has written some echo is left inside me. She wrote:

Because I've published two books with the Unitarian publisher, Skinner House, I occasionally get invited to preach at UU fellowships around the state. Humanists emerge from farmsteads and drive long distances to gather in tiny churches, often bough second-hand from Christian Scientists or other fringe congregations; they decorate the walls with religious symbols of every tradition, and light a candle at the beginning of the services to symbolize the flame of truth. I relish the chance to read Thoreau's words responsively on a Sunday morning. I admire the Unitarians terribly-after all, they (and not the more cautious Christan denominations) willingly publish my work.

And yet I must always be prepared in such circumstance to field the question, "How can you stay a Christian?" In other words, how can I, a bisexual woman with a sharp head on my shoulders, believe the Jesus-is-the-way claptrap and put up with the accompanying dogmatism of the institutionalized church? Unitarians are smart cookies; they acknowledge many paths winding toward one truth and have made a religion of this diversity. Those of us mired in a singe tradition, especially if an exclusive one, seem to them a bit primitive.

Here is my answer: I need story. Sure, Buddha's or Mohammed's story would work fine, but I've been given Jesus' story and I'm willing to stick it out. When people of faith commit to a story, we inhabit its ethos, its ethics, its characters and setting and circumstances; we accept the story's heritage, the burdens of its misuse and the glories of this unique path.

What Unitarians (and, incidentally, most fundamentalists) trip over is the seeming incompatibility of accepting many paths to one truth and believing the truth of one particular path. How, for instance, can a Christan believe Jesus is the way, truth, and life and at the same time honor the absolute integrity of Judaism? Ah, paradox!

Here's how I resolve this koan: God's a master story-teller. Great stories have arisen from the fabric of history and become faith traditions.

They are all true, and none are true. They're all perfect and flawed. Each on is worthy of a lifetime of immersion, because only from within a story can we fully appreciate its author.

Ever feel like you Horoscope is right on the money?

My horoscope today felt like it was written just for me. It said:

Just because you have a high level of integrity and are willing to do the spiritual work required by your beliefs, don't think you are better than everyone else. Be careful about self-righteousness; it will only isolate you from those you love. It's healthier to realize that everyone is on their own path and is exactly where they should be at this time.

I hate when my horoscope looks me and says, "I told you so."